The International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE) Pre-Olympic congress is the largest Sport-related congress on the calendar. This year it is taking place in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece at the border with Macedonia. We have a very nice train ride from Athens with views of the changing Greek landscape, including mount Olympus and the sacred hills of Meteora.
We get a nice first impression of Thessaloniki, one of four Olympic cities around Greece hosting the football tournament. The city is full of Olympic banners, but has a very different feel to Athens. The air is cooler, the buildings have a marked Turkish and Macedonian influence and there is not the chaos of Olympic preparations that pervade in the capital. The trip from the train station to the hotel is very straight forward. Upon arrival we met one of the Congress delegates in the station and both proceed to ask for information from the unaffiliated info stand. Hotel very pleasant, even a small glimpse of the ocean and not too far from the Congress venue.
The congress opening ceremony is around 6pm and includes MANY welcomes from officials, including Patrick Schamash, the IOC representative for Jacque Rogge and high priests from the Greek Orthodox Church coming from Olympia, the birth place of the Ancient Olympic Games. The long and elaborated ceremony offers a first glimpse at Greek protocols which are going to be continued at length throughout the Olympic fortnight all around the country. The evening ends with a range of cultural presentations and – finally! – some nice Greek food.